The Nose Knows: A Pencil Nose Review

by Corey Whelen
28 August 2019

4+ Players, ~30 Minutes, Low Complexity, Low Strategy

Some games never go out of fashion. Monopoly has been kicking for over a century, Charades has been around since the early 1800’s and Checkers was played 5000 years ago in Ancient Mesopotamia. They’re great games, and they’ve withstood the test of time for a reason, but sometimes a small tweak can make them feel new and fresh again, providing a game that’s immediately accessible for new players due to its familiarity, yet fresh and engaging for people who have played for years. Fat Brain Toy’s newest game, Pencil Nose, is one such tweak, and I think it’s my all-time favourite variation on Pictionary.

Pencil Nose Board Game Layout for Critic's Corner Review
You probably already understand why I love this game.

The premise is easy to understand and inherently appealing. Much like Pictionary, two teams will compete, and each round, one player will be the “Drawer” who tries to lead their team to say a series of keywords out loud by drawing them on a plastic screen. The team gets points for every clue they get, while the other team loudly heckles them. That last part is very important.

The Drawer starts every round by taking a card with 6 different keywords on it, of varying difficulty. They’ll flip an hourglass and try to get their team to say as many of the keywords as possible in the time limit, in any order they want. The trick, as you may have guessed, is that they’re not allowed to draw with their hands- the game comes with two pairs of glasses that will affix a whiteboard marker to the Drawer’s nose. Every picture/clue given to the Drawer’s team must be drawn with that marker. And just like that, we have a game-changer.

Pencil Nose Board Game Corey Whelen for Critic's Corner Review
Pictured: A Man with Dignity to spare 

Using a giant, unwieldy Pinocchio-nose is a FANTASTIC idea on so many levels. First of all, NOBODY is good at drawing with this thing- if everybody is bad at it, then everybody is equally good at it, and we have an even playing field. Pictionary is great if you can draw, the less artistically inclined have to work a lot harder to keep up, which can be frustrating in a team-setting. Secondly, watching people struggle to draw simple shapes is AMAZING. It hits the sweet spot for a party game, where somebody’s always laughing- either the Drawer for pulling off the impossible and managing a competent drawing, or everybody else as they watch the Drawer turn red and get flustered as they fail to draw a circle.

Pencil Nose Board Game Example for Critic's Corner Review
I am a grown man and this was my best effort.

In conclusion, Pencil Nose is a joke game, and an excellent one at that. You can’t take it too seriously, it’s hard to be overly competitive with, it tests your motor-skills, and there’s a genuine sense of joy and wonderment when you guess that pile of squiggles and scribbles is actually supposed to be a giraffe. It makes you laugh; that’s what it does best, and it does it extremely well. If you’re looking for something light and fun that works with a group, Pencil Nose has the chutzpah to be a hit at your next family reunion, casual games night, or even work event- so long as you’re okay with looking absolutely ridiculous!